The Burnley football fan behind the White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium has claimed he is not racist and would do it all again.
Jake Hepple, who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets ‘a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language’.
But the 24-year-old from Colne, near Burnley, insisted to MailOnline: ‘I’m not racist. I know people are trying to make out to be one but I’m not.
‘I’ve got lots of Black and Asian friends and this banner was actually inspired by the Black Lives Movement.
‘We were not trying to offend the movement or black people. I believe that it’s also important to acknowledge that white lives matter too. That’s all we were trying to say.’
Mr Hepple said police visited him at home on Tuesday night to tell him he would not face criminal charges.
He said they also offered him protection should he or his family face threats in the future as a result of the banner.
He added: ‘The police told me that I haven’t committed any crime and haven’t done anything wrong.
‘In fact, they asked me if I was OK and wanted any protection, just in case people try to target me.
‘I don’t understand why I’m being treated like a criminal and believe that there has been a total over reaction to what happened. Everything has been blown out of proportion, it’s ridiculous.’
Jake Hepple (pictured with his girlfriend Megan Rambadt), who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets ‘a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language’
In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache. The 24-year-old from Colne, near Burnley, insisted to MailOnline: ‘I’m not racist. I know people are trying to make out to be one but I’m not’
A picture from Mr Hepple’s social media shows him at the back with friends at the pub holding up England flags
A plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of the team’s match with Manchester on Monday
Mr Hepple claimed responsibility for the pre-match stunt on Monday and wrote on Facebook: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’
The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded for the flight and its message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’.
Mr Hepple said 60 people contributed towards the banner and the hire of the plane, which cost £600 in total.
He said organisers had offers of money from ‘hundreds’ of people who were willing to support the ‘white lives matter cause.’
Among those also believed to be behind the banner is multiple convicted football hooligan Mark Hamer, 37.
Last night his father George, 66, said: ‘I’d heard that it was Mark who had organised it but it’s nothing to do with me.’
The plane flew over the stadium just after Manchester City and Burnley FC players had taken the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mr Hepple, a welder for Paradigm Precision, has been told he is facing the sack for his involvement in the stunt and is also likely to face a lifetime ban from Burnley.
He said: ‘My employer, the club and so many other people have completely overreacted to what’s happened.’
Mr Hepple, who lives at home with his mother Jill and stepfather Dave, said he only became involved after the Reading attack on Saturday.
Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt
Mr Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was yesterday suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media
He continued: ‘The idea for it came from a football pal of mine. He wanted to make the point that not just Black Lives Matter but so do white ones and all other ones.
‘I supported the idea and believe that it needed to be said. I still do. Then the attack happened in Reading and I thought I have to get more involved with the banner.
‘I was angry that white people had been killed and nobody was making a fuss about that.’
He travelled to Manchester on Monday with two other friends in a car and they positioned themselves on a bridge at 7.30pm close to the Etihad stadium waiting for the plane to fly overhead.
Mr Hepple said: ‘We agreed that me and a friend would live stream it on Facebook as it flew over the ground.
‘But as it came over my mate hit the wrong button and only my video was broadcast. And that’s why I’m getting all the stick.’
But he insisted: ‘I stand by this banner and what it says 100 per cent. I’m not sorry at all and I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done.’
Mr Hepple’s girlfriend Megan Rambadt, 21, also faced criticism for some of her racist social media posts and has been suspended from her job as a beautician.
He said: ‘She hasn’t stopped crying. Everybody is making her out to be a nasty, racist monster but she’s not like that at all.
What criminal offences would the police have looked for?
Lancashire Police said they found no criminal offence had been committed after Monday night’s incident.
Similar unrelated cases in the past saw authorities issue charges under:
Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 – A person is guilty of an offence if they ‘use threatening [or abusive] words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour’ or ‘displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive].’
Air Navigation Order 2009 – This makes it an offence to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft. It does not appear this happened in Monday night’s incident.
‘She’s been suspended from her job and is really upset at what’s happened. She knew about the banner and supported it but like me, she wasn’t expecting this reaction.’
Lancashire Police yesterday confirmed Mr Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL and has been pictured with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, had not been found to have committed a criminal offence.
Chief superintendent Russ Procter said: ‘Lancashire Constabulary has been in liaison with Greater Manchester Police, the Aviation Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service regards the ‘White Lives Matter’ banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium.
‘After assessing all the information available surrounding this incident we have concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time.
‘We will continue to work with our partners at the football club and within the local authority.’
Despite this Mr Hepple’s employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were looking into his conduct and would announce any action soon.
Blackpool Airport, which was used by the plane, announced it had suspended all banner towing operations ‘with immediate effect’ and said it ‘did not condone’ the message.
Mr Hepple posted an image of the plane on Facebook on Monday and wrote: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!
‘It’s now apparently racist to say White Lives Matter, the day after three white people got murdered in a park in Reading, but all we’ve seen on the TV is Black Lives Matter after George Floyd got murdered. What a mad world we live in.’
His stunt led to outrage and has been widely condemned, with Burnley captain Ben Mee saying he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’.
Speaking after the match, which his side lost 5-0, he noted the Burnley players had heard ‘whispers’ something may have been planned.
The company that operated the plane, Air Ads, is based in Stockport and flies from Blackpool Airport.
Chief superintendent Russ Procter said no criminal offence was committed
But it emerged yesterday the airport had suspended flights operated by the company pending an investigation.
One of its former directors, Alan Elliott, was fined £2,000 in 2017 for flying 400ft from Goodison Park after being paid by an Everton fan to display a sign emblazoned with ‘Thank you Mr Kenwright’ in support of the club chairman.
Under the Air Navigation Order 2009, aircraft are not allowed to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft within a 600-yard radius of the highest obstacle.
It appears that threshold was not crossed during the stunt – meaning the flight itself was not a crime.
A former pilot at Blackpool Airport claimed they knew the pilot at Air Ads and confirmed the firm used to be run by Alan Elliot, who died a few weeks ago.
The pilot, who did not wish to be named, told Sky News the banners are made to order and the flights cost around £700, with pilots taking around £100 per flight.
He added: ‘We would assume whoever paid for the banner would get done for it.’
Air Ads was involved in a crash on July 18, 2010, when the pilot wrote off a plane by mistakenly revving up the engine while taxiing on the runway and slammed into a hangar.
The pilot, who was not named in an incident report, escaped uninjured.
Air Ads Ltd has been involved in several other high-profile publicity stunts, including flying a banner over Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium reading ‘Go Clarets’ for a local newspaper and advertising a marriage proposal.
Chequered history of air banner firm who provided plane for ‘White Lives Matter’ stunt
The Cessna C-182 was chartered from Air Ads Ltd, which is based at Blackpool Airport. The small aircraft was spotted on flight tracking service FlightRadar24 leaving the seaside resort and flying over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, shortly after players and support staff had held a minute’s silence for Covid-19 victims and went down on one knee for Black Lives Matter.
Alan Elliott is listed as a former director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for Monday night’s stunt
One former pilot from Air Ads Ltd, Alan Elliott, from Bolton, was prosecuted in 2017 having flown a banner over Goodison Park, Everton.
The pilot was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £8,500 prosecution costs at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court after he flew within 400 feet of the stadium – endangering the public and his aircraft.
Mr Elliot had been paid £800 to fly the banner. Though he should not have been below 1,000ft in a congested area such as a city centre or within a radius of 600 yards of the highest obstacle.
The rules are designed to allow a small aircraft the chance to glide to safety if its engine fails.
Mr Elliott died on May 3, according to his family.
In July 2010 the company wrote off an aircraft which crashed into a hangar while refuelling in Compton Abbas Airfield, Dorset.
According to an air accident report by the Civil Aviation Authority, when the aircraft restarted, it lurched forward and crashed into the hangar before the pilot was able to react.
Alan Elliott, who was involved in the Everton incident, died on May 3 this year, according to his family. His son, Alan Mark Elliott, is still listed as a director. MailOnline contacted the company for comment.
Bob Stinger, one of the pilots associated with Air Ads, denied being at the controls on Monday night but declined to comment further.
Burnley captain Ben Mee said he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’ of the stunt, and revealed that his players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned.
‘I am ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to fly that around the stadium,’ he said. ‘It is not what we are about.
‘They have missed what we are trying to achieve. These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. They don’t represent what we are about, the club is about, the players are about and the majority of fans are about.
‘I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to associate it with my club. I don’t want to see this in the game.
‘It is not right. We totally condemn it. These people can learn and be taught what Black Lives Matter is trying to achieve.’
Mr Hepple’s employer, Paradigm Precision in Burnley, said: ‘We are aware of the incident that took place and are currently investigating the conduct of our employee. Once we have completed our enquiries, we will release a full statement.’
Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:
‘I condemn the actions of those responsible for the banner flown over the Etihad Stadium.
‘We will always support the police and other relevant authorities to investigate any reports of inappropriate or illegal activities, providing whatever assistance we can.’
Blackpool Airport said: ‘The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council.
‘Due to the nature of the activity, banners are not checked before take-off and the content is at the operator’s discretion.
‘Following an emergency review this morning, Blackpool Airport will suspend all banner towing operations at the airport with immediate effect and we would suggest that other airports should also consider this approach in light of what has happened at Blackpool.’
Mr Hepple with his partner, Megan Rambadt, who tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’
Mr Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done
The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement
Monday night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism
In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League
Ben Mee, who was born in Sale, said Burnley tried to halt the plans once they became aware of what was to follow.
Fan behind plane posted racist ‘P***’ messages online while bosses suspend his girlfriend from beauty job after racist tweets
The Burnley fan who chartered a plane and flew a White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium shared a series of racist slurs on social media, it emerged yesterday, as his girlfriend was suspended from her beauty job for her own bigoted posts.
Jake Hepple ranted about ‘P***s’ while his partner, Megan Rambadt, tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’.
Ms Rambadt’s tweet about Burnley being like a ‘foreign country’ that ‘needs sorting’
Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL on Facebook and appeared in a photo with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, claimed responsibility for the stunt on Monday night, writing: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’
The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight, which flew over the stadium just after players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter.
Lancashire Police confirmed it was investigating Mr Hepple, from Colne, as his employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were investigating his conduct and would announce any action soon.
It came as Solace Foot Health and Reflexology, which employs Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, condemned ‘abhorrently racist’ comments she had posted on social media and said they would ‘deal with the situation internally’.
‘As we were coming out we heard some whispers that it was going to happen,’ he added. ‘The club tried to stop it. I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again.’
Manager Sean Dyche echoed his captain’s words, as did several other football figures, including BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker.
In addition to taking a knee before games, all Premier League players have worn the words Black Lives Matter on the back on their shirts and a logo on the sleeve to show support for the movement.
BLM protests erupted worldwide following the death of George Floyd, 46, who died after police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis in the US on May 25.
Monday night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism.
A Burnley spokesman said: ‘Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.
‘We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor. This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.
‘The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind.
‘We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative and, in line with all other Premier League games undertaken since Project Restart, our players and football staff willingly took the knee at kick-off at Manchester City.
‘We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.’
Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise
Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’
Alan Elliott – pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates’ Court – is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for Monday night’s stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park
Burnley FC Police – a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club – said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC
Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium on Monday
Yesterday more Premier League players took to their knees at a match between Leicester City and Brighton & Hove Albion at The King Power Stadium in Leicester
Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt.
MailOnline columnist Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘A plane flew over the Etihad stadium tonight with this banner saying ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. So depressing.’
Pundit and former England footballer Lineker added: ‘I’m sure @BurnleyOfficial will condemn this s***housery.’
Rachel Riley commented: ‘Anyone fancy a crowdfunder to get these idiots a tattoo to mark their brave and clever stunt. I reckon ‘Man City 5 – Burnley 0′ would be perfect.’
Comedian Omid Djalli said: ‘Brilliant Ben Mee being on it ASAP. The Black Lives Matter movement is everyone against racism and discrimination towards all minorities.
‘Burnley FC have apologised for an idiotic minority who want a race war. Well done the Premier League for keeping on highlighting injustice.
‘If someone is chartering a plane to fly a banner like that over a football match, it proves definitively that there are racists out there literally with more money than sense.’
Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was ‘disappointed’ by the provocative message
In response to the distasteful stunt, other Burnley fans have started a Go Fund Me page raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, set up in memory of the black teenager after he was killed in a racist attack in 1993.
Organiser of the Go Fund Me, Lee Briggs, 33, a lifelong Clarets supporter, said he felt embarrassed by his club being associated with the banner’s ‘racist language’.
Sports commentator Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White Lives Matter – Burnley’. F***ing hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace.’
Players have been taking to their knees throughout the Premier League in a sign of support in the fight against inequality and injustice which was adopted by sports stars in 2016 after NFL player Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem.